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Chapter 1 Chapter 1
The First Administration: 1901-1904
The epigraphs at the head of every chapter are by "Mr. Dooley," Theodore Roosevelt's favorite social commentator.
The Shadow of the Crown
I see that Tiddy, Prisidint Tiddy-here's his health-is th' youngest prisidint we've iver had, an' some iv th' pa-apers ar-re wondherin' whether he's old enough f'r th' raysponsibilities iv' th' office.
On the morning after McKinley's interment, Friday, 20 September 1901, a stocky figure in a frock coat sprang up the front steps of the White House. A policeman, recognizing the new President of the United States, jerked to attention, but Roosevelt, trailed by Commander Cowles, was already on his way into the vestibule. Nodding at a pair of attaches, he hurried into the elevator and rose to the second floor. His rapid footsteps sought out the executive office over the East Room. Within seconds of arrival he was leaning back in McKinley's chair, dictating letters to William Loeb. He looked as if he had sat there for years. It was, a veteran observer marveled, "quite the strangest introduction of a Chief Magistrate . . . in our national history."
As the President worked, squads of cleaners, painters, and varnishers hastened to refurbish the private apartments down the hall. He sent word that he and Mrs. Roosevelt would occupy the sunny riverview suite on the south corner. Not for them the northern exposure favored by their predecessors, with its cold white light and panorama of countless chimney pots.
A pall of death and invalidism hung over the fusty building. Roosevelt decided to remain at his brother-in-law's house until after the weekend. It was as if he wanted the White House to ventilate itself of the sad fragrance of the nineteenth century. Edith and the children would breeze in soon enough, bringing what he called "the Oyster Bay atmosphere."
At eleven o'clock he held his first Cabinet meeting. There was a moment of strangeness when he took his place at the head of McKinley's table. Ghostly responsibility sat on his shoulders. "A very heavy weight," James Wilson mused, "for anyone so young as he is."
But the President was not looking for sympathy. "I need your advice and counsel," he said. He also needed their resignations, but for legal reasons only. Every man must accept reappointment. "I cannot accept a declination."
This assertion of authority went unchallenged. Relaxing, Roosevelt asked for briefings on every department of the Administration. His officers complied in order of seniority. He interrupted them often with questions, and they were astonished by the rapidity with which he embraced and sorted information. His curiosity and apparent lack of guile charmed them.
The President's hunger for intelligence did not diminish as the day wore on. He demanded naval-construction statistics and tariff-reciprocity guidelines and a timetable for the independence of Cuba, and got two visiting Senators to tell him more than they wanted to about the inner workings of Congress. In the late afternoon, he summoned the heads of Washington's three press agencies.
"This being my first day in the White House as President of the United States," Roosevelt said ingratiatingly, "I desired to have a little talk with you gentlemen who are responsible for the collection and dissemination of the news."
A certain code of "relations," he went on, should be established immediately. He glanced at the Associated Press and Sun service representatives. "Mr. Boynton and Mr. Barry, whom I have known for many years and who have always possessed my confidence, shall continue to have it." They must understand that this...
About the Author-
Edmund Morris was born and educated in Kenya and went to college in South Africa. He worked as an advertising copywriter in London before immigrating to the United States in 1968. His biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt won the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award in 1980. After spending several years as President Reagan's authorized biographer, he published the national bestseller Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan in 1999. He has written extensively on travel and the arts for such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Harper's Magazine. Edmund Morris lives in New York and Washington with his wife and fellow biographer, Sylvia Jukes Morris.
Starred review from October 15, 2001
The second entry in Morris's projected three-volume life of Theodore Roosevelt focuses on the presidential years 1901 through early 1909. Impeccably researched and beautifully composed, Morris's book provides what is arguably the best consideration of Roosevelt's presidency ever penned. Making good use of TR's private and presidential papers—as well as the archives of such protégés as John Hay, William Howard Taft, Owen Wister and John Burroughs—Morris marshals a rich array of carefully chosen and beautifully rendered vignettes to create a dazzling portrait of the man (the youngest ever to hold the office of president). Morris proves the perfect guide through TR's eight breathless, fertile years in the White House: years during which the doting father and prolific author conserved millions of Western acres, swung his "big stick" at trusts and monopolies, advanced progressive agendas on race and labor relations, fostered a revolution in Panama (where he sought to build his canal), won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War and pushed through the Pure Food and Drug Act. John Burroughs once wrote that the hypercreative TR "was a many sided man, and every side was like an electric battery." In the end, Morris succeeds brilliantly at capturing all of TR's many energized sides, producing a book that is every bit as complex, engaging and invigorating as the vibrant president it depicts. Illus. (On-sale: Nov. 20)Forecast:Long-awaited, this volume comes out in the centennial of TR's rise to the presidency. Morris's gift for storytelling and his outstanding reputation from volume one (and perhaps his notoriety for the controversial Reagan bio
Dutch) should guarantee large sales.
November 1, 2002
When Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded the assassinated William McKinley, his conservative critics feared a precipitous presidency. But as shown by Morris's second volume on the "Bully" president, what emerged instead was a balanced leader who deserves being ranked among America's top five chief executives. There was universal praise for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the first volume of Morris's TR biography, which claimed both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1980. After his controversial Dutch: A Biography of Ronald Reagan, Morris returns to TR and his traditional acclaimed method, which is stylistically eloquent and historically balanced. Morris shows how Roosevelt adapted Abraham Lincoln's wartime presidency as his own model for transforming America's domestic and international agendas. His two major miscalculations were his premature announcement declining a second complete term and the handling of the Brownsville Affair, when he gave dishonorable discharges to all 167 men from three black companies stationed near Brownsville, TX, when they refused to identify 12 members who had retaliated against discriminatory practices in the town. Morris excels at placing TR in the context of his time, showing how he outmaneuvered powerful but ossified opponents from the Gilded Age and trumped isolationists by averting war, in the process winning the first Nobel Peace Prize. He also set the standard for the Hyde Park Roosevelts, whose emulation of his "accidental" presidency a generation later was perhaps his ultimate contribution to democracy. Essential for all libraries.-William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Copyright 2002 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
October 1, 2001
By constitutional dictate, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt assumed the mantle of the presidency when, on September 14, 1901, William McKinley succumbed to an assassin's bullet. At age 42, TR was the youngest man to become chief executive, and his succession to the highest office in the land was not universally applauded. Senator Mark Hanna, the late president McKinley's friend and mentor, did not just speak for himself when he wailed, "Now look--that damned cowboy is president of the United States." Morris, author of the controversial " Dutch: A Memoir of "Ronald Reagan (1999), now writes the sequel to his award-winning " The Rise of the Theodore Roosevelt" (1979). And just as TR required a large stage to accommodate his personality and talents--only the presidency would do--the proper telling of his story requires many pages. The reader experiences joy along with the president as he takes hold of the reins of government and, not content with simply being a politician and chief administrator, struggles "toward statesmanship." Roosevelt brought freshness and energy to his handling of the important issues of the day, which for him meant busting trusts, pushing conservation, building the Panama Canal, and effecting a naval buildup. He ended his presidency pleased with his performance and accomplishments, and the reader will end this engrossing narrative pleased that Morris has finally written the second half of this impressive biography.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2001, American Library Association.)
- W. A. Swanberg, The New York Times Book Review "Magnificent . . . a sweeping narrative of the outward man and a shrewd examination of his character. . . . It is one of those rare works that is both definitive for the period it covers and fascinating to read for sheer entertainment. There should be a queue awaiting the next volume."
- Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review "Theodore Roosevelt, in this meticulously researched and beautifully written biography, has a claim on being the most interesting man ever to be President of this country."
- The Atlantic Monthly "Spectacles glittering, teeth and temper flashing, high-pitched voice rasping and crackling, Roosevelt surges out of these pages with the force of a physical presence."
- Kenneth S. Davis, Worcester Sunday Telegram "Morris's book is beautifully written as well as thoroughly scholarly-clearly a masterpiece of American biography. . . . Hundreds of thousands will soon be reading this book . . . and will look forward, as I do, to Morris's second volume."
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
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